Something of the character of the canons can be experienced in the first head of doctrine (on unconditional election), article 6:
The reality that some people are given faith by God in time, while others are not given faith, proceeds from God’s eternal decree. “He knows all His works from eternity” (Acts 15:18; Eph. 1:11). According to this decree, He graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however hard, and inclines them to believe. He also leaves the nonelect according to His just judgment in their wickedness and hardness of heart. This decree most powerfully shows us God’s profound, merciful, yet also just distinction among people equally lost. This decree of election and reprobation is revealed in the Word of God. And although the perverse, impure, and unstable twist it to their own destruction, it gives inexpressible comfort to holy and pious souls. (author’s translation)
In an exemplary way, this article states the doctrine clearly, shows its origin in the Bible, and insists on the comfort that a confidence in the sovereign, saving purpose of God brings to the people of God.
The synod also did other important work that provided for the life and health of the Dutch Reformed Church for centuries to come. The synod appointed a committee to prepare a new Dutch translation of the Bible. This Bible would have the same status and influence in the Dutch-speaking world that the King James Version of the Bible would have in the English-speaking world. This Bible would support the piety and life of Dutch Christians well into the twentieth century.
The synod also reiterated the church’s commitment to the Belgic Confession and established the official text of the confession, since slight variations were found in earlier publications. The synod had been asked to write a new confession of faith that all the Reformed churches of Europe would accept. The synod concluded that it did not have time for such an undertaking, but it did approve the Belgic Confession as an agreeable confession to all the Reformed.
The synod also adopted a church order that provided the rules of procedure for the Dutch churches for centuries to come. The church order described the work of ministers, elders, and deacons as well as the ministry and worship of congregations. It also laid out the work of local consistories (similar to sessions) as well as the work of the broader assemblies of the classes (similar to presbyteries) and synods.
The synod was also asked to make a definitive statement on the doctrine of the Sabbath. The synod again did not have time for a definitive study, but it did prepare a brief statement to help the churches and Christians. The Sabbath, after all, is not just a teaching of the churches but is a crucial part of the piety and life of the churches. The synod called for rest and worship on the Lord’s Day. Beyond its statement, when asked what to do with the traditional evening service if it was poorly attended, the synod advised that the evening service should be held even if only the minster’s family were in attendance. In time, the Dutch Reformed churches became careful in observing the Christian Sabbath, and the two services helped greatly in producing a devout and well-educated laity.
The Synod of Dort did outstanding work that is well worth celebrating four hundred years later. It preserved the true teaching of the Bible on salvation and provided in other ways as well for the well-being of the life of the church. The synod fought the good fight to which Jude calls Christians. The fight did lead to a fracture in the church. A small minority left to form the Remonstrant Brotherhood. But as Jude makes clear, such a division is not the fault of the orthodox but the fault of those who oppose the truth (Jude 19). The great accomplishment of the synod was that it kept, taught, and defended our faith, “our common salvation” (v. 3).